Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Crucible, Ward, Opera, Politics

Major Advisor

Dr. Alain Frogley

Co-Major Advisor

Dr. Constance Rock

Associate Advisor

Dr. Louis Hanzlik

Associate Advisor

See above

Field of Study



Doctor of Musical Arts

Open Access

Open Access



Robert Ward’s The Crucible:

Politics and Personal Relationships in an Operatic Adaptation

Ryan Francis Burns, DMA

University of Connecticut, 2017

American composer, Robert Eugene Ward (1917-2013), made a significant contribution to the world of musical composition. His most enduring legacy is likely to remain his award-winning operatic adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which premiered in 1961 by the New York City Opera. In politics, the personal can often be secondary, but for Ward’s opera, with political content at its very core, it is essential. By analyzing John Proctor’s relationship with his wife, Elizabeth, and his former mistress, Abigail Williams, one is able to better understand how the witchcraft hysteria took hold of a small New England town in 1692.

This dissertation will begin by offering a brief survey of the life and works of Robert Ward, as well as a summary of the historical events that made Salem notorious in 1692, and of Arthur Miller’s play. The discussion will then proceed to a consideration of the issues surrounding opera on political themes, analyzing The Crucible alongside such well-known operas as Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Beethoven’s Fidelio, Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, and Adams’ Nixon in China. This historical background and critical framework will provide the foundation for a detailed analysis of the important relationships in Ward’s opera, and how these are to be evaluated in relation to its broader political themes. Finally, a discussion as to how such an approach might be applied to other operas with political subject matter will be offered.